Let's Talk with Debra H. Goldstein

Deadlines and Delay

November 3, 2022

Who hasn’t had a deadline to meet, but been afraid it will be missed? In most cases, even if it takes an all-nighter, the task is completed on time.

Sometimes, though, it simply can’t be done. A family crisis, personal illness (can you spell Covid), mechanical failure of the printer or computer, or “the dog ate my homework” can disrupt the best intentions. Any of these things are understandable and, in most instances, forgivable. But what happens when the blame for the delay rests squarely on an author’s shoulders because of playing too much solitaire or allowing other mindless pursuits or frolics to detract from the final goal?

In life, delays result in consequences, but there often is an acceptable workaround. Publishing is different.

Publishers work on tight schedules to bring a book out on a certain date. They establish guidelines or time constraints for their authors. Although there may be some wiggle room worked in, the failure to write a book or return proofs in accordance with the signed contract not only reflects negatively on the author but may also result in the book being significantly delayed or not published because of the publisher’s commitment of resources to other authors. Publishers will not disrupt the flow of their calendar year for an errant writer.

So, why, except in exceptional cases, do authors delay? It may be hating the work in progress, lack of confidence when comparing one’s skills to others, a deficit in executive function/organization, or pure laziness. It doesn’t really matter. A person is judged by one’s work and work ethic. Do you agree?

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Posted in Let's Talk, with Debra H. Goldstein • Tags: , , , |  13 Comments


13 thoughts on “Deadlines and Delay

  1. Hi Debra, Most of my procrastination behavior is due to a lack of confidence in the story. Is it good enough? Is there enough tension? Is the dialogue believable? I could go on forever, but that is mostly why I hesitate to put my fingers on the keyboard. Luckily, I’m a creature of habit, and I sit down and write anyway.

  2. I am Queen of the procrastinators but that mostly happens when, as you say, I’m not happy/confident in the story. When that happens I stop and make a drastic change (ex: the killer was A, but let’s make it B), and then I can go on my merry way. But if changing doesn’t work, I have no choice but to simply bull my way through, and afterwards I usually realize there was nothing wrong with my story except in my head. I’ve heard of people being a year late with a book, which makes me go, huh?? I might be late on a deadline but I always ask permission first and am never so late that it impacts the publishing schedule.

  3. Editors work wiggle room into deadlines because they know “stuff happens.” Authors often have to ask for a deadline extension because of that “stuff” that happens. However, the author who consistently misses deadlines will soon find herself without a next contract. The “stuff happens” get-out-of-jail card can only be used in rare instances if you don’t want one of the many writers waiting in the wings to swoop in and grab your next contract. That’s certainly great motivation to write the next scene…and the next…and the next….

  4. For publishers who schedule slots ahead of time, you’re in a set rotation. When I was with Kensington, all my books were released in December. The small press I’d worked with had a different method. They didn’t assign a release date until your finished book was submitted. In a way, I liked this process better because it relieved the pressure. I could write at my own pace and make my own deadlines.

    1. True, but if something happened to the publisher, like happened to my friend with a small press, there could often be a gap between books and then two came out close together.

  5. I tend not to be a procrastinator, but did get into that habit this summer when I was plotting and just trying to figure out where the next story went. That’s actually my most vulnerable time because once I set a deadline, I’m a very goal-oriented person, and I’ll do what it takes to meet it.

  6. What? Established, published authors are full of doubt and procrastination? Why, you must all be human! Hi, my name is Pamela and it is my hope and dream to become a published cozy mystery author. I love reading everyone’s comments on this site, and realizing that you all have true “human” habits and feelings. Frankly, I think you are all superheroes for having each accomplished writing careers. I look foreword to the next post.

  7. I’m chronically ahead of schedule, have been for my 20 years writing professionally. This year is the first where I’ve fallen behind due to “life gets in the way.”

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